Businessman Marco Miguel Rodriguez, 47, enjoys an alcoholic drink with his food. Oftentimes, he loves cooking with spirits, too.
In his home-based food brand, Xáncho (tel. 0917-8307020, 0917-5054572), which he started in December 2013, he carries bold-flavored items such as Chicken Tempranillo, Dark Porter Beer-Braised Short Ribs and Carne Estofada de Eivissa, chunks of beef brisket cooked low and slow in a vat of spices, Serrano ham off-cuts and wine.
He has also played with local spirits like Ilocos bugnay wine, which he mixed with black grapes and balsamic to come up with a potent braising liquid for tender ribs.
Like many others, Marco was also prodded by people who have sampled his dishes to turn his hobby into a business. “Prior to this, I had been cooking solely for friends and family by throwing dinner parties that would last late into the night, as well as for Christmas Eve and New Year’s celebrations,” he says.
Hoping to hone his skills further, he took a short culinary course at International School for Culinary Arts and Hotel Management in 2006, followed by a trailing stint in New York at Geoffrey Zakarian’s Michelin-starred restaurant Country.
“I’ve always had an affinity for food. I remember enjoying cooking shows on TV—Jacques Pepin, Julia Child, ‘Wok with Yan’—as well as leafing through cookbooks and recipes,” he says. “I was influenced by nobody in particular since I’ve always had an innate passion for food. It was back in 1994 that I found the courage to fire up the stove and cook my very first dish, which was Cajun.”
Because of the pandemic, Xáncho (it was supposed to be the nickname for his son Alejandro, but the two names sound unrelated) has become busier because of the demand for ready-to-eat or -reheat dishes. And since he has been offering frozen food and easy-to-prep meals for years now, his brand has become reliable.
His menu is varied and inspired by his travels, so you would see ingredients and flavors from Turkey and Morocco mixed with more familiar numbers from Asia. He’s now preparing his specials for the holidays. A yearly staple is his flavored butters, which work well with steaks and roasted vegetables. He also has a brown butter pasta with chestnuts, goat cheese and pancetta in the works. Marco shares the recipe for a Spanish tapa, which he has enjoyed eating abroad as well as preparing for friends here. And true to how the Spanish indulge in it, it’s best with a bottle of wine.
Tuna-Stuffed Piquillo Peppers (Pimientos del Piquillo Rellenos de Atún)
1 12-oz jar piquillo peppers, drained
1 420-g canned tuna, drained
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
½ c warm milk
Salt and white pepper, to season
A pinch of ground nutmeg
Beaten egg and all-purpose flour for breading
Canola oil for frying
Make the bechamel. In a saucepan over low to medium heat, melt butter. Add flour and stir continuously until a paste forms. Pour the warm milk while stirring. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Stir until it slightly thickens. Transfer to a bowl. Set aside to cool.
Add tuna to the bechamel. Mix well.
Using a teaspoon or piping bag, stuff the pepper with tuna bechamel.
Gently dip peppers in beaten egg, and then flour to create a thin breading.
Fry until golden brown on each side. Transfer to plate with paper towels to extract excess oil.
Serve with wine. Makes around 12.